Bowl season is almost upon us and with only two teams left (5-6 Army and 6-6 Hawaii) that can achieve bowl eligibility, it’s time to look at who is going where.
Over the next six days I will profile all 11 conferences (as well as the independents) and project who will end up where, with all projections based on the final week panning out without any upsets.
First up will be the conference likely to have the No. 1 team in the BCS, the Southeastern Conference.
Over the past few years, the SEC has been considered the best and/or toughest conference in the FBS. An SEC team has won four of the last six BCS National Championships (it could’ve been five if Auburn hadn’t been snubbed for the big game following a perfect 2004 season) and three in a row.
While the conference may have a little more parity this year than others—the SEC needs an LSU bowl victory to avoid having only two 10-game winners for the first time since 2002—it might be as deep as any conference ever has been.
The SEC has 10 bowl-eligible teams and nine automatic tie-ins, which means that even if they send two to the BCS (which is almost definite), all bowl slots will be filled.
The SEC has a whopping 10 out of 12 teams that qualify for postseason play, and 5-7 Mississippi State was close. Kind of puts into perspective how bad Vandy really is, no?
In order, first by record and then alphabetically, here are the 10 teams the SEC will send bowling:
Florida (12-0, East Division Champion)
Alabama (12-0, West Division Champion)
South Carolina (7-5)
Here, in order of selection, are the SEC's nine normal bowl affiliations:
No. 1: BCS (Sugar Bowl or BCS Championship Game)
No. 2: Capital One Bowl
Nos. 3-4: Cotton Bowl, Outback Bowl
No. 5: Chick-Fil-A Bowl
Nos. 6-7: Music City Bowl, Liberty Bowl
No. 8: Independence Bowl
No. 9: Papajohns.com Bowl
NOTE: If a second team besides the champion is selected for the BCS, then each non-BCS Bowl moves down one slot.
In the SEC, the tie-ins aren’t cut and dried.
For instance, the Capital One Bowl must take either the best available team or a team within one game of them.
With Nos. 3 and 4, the Cotton must take a team from the SEC West and the Outback must take a team from the SEC East.
And with Nos. 6 and 7, the Music City and Liberty work together with the SEC office to make the selections.
Projected Bowl selections:
No. 1: BCS Championship Game — Florida
No. 2: Sugar Bowl — Alabama
No. 3: Capital One Bowl — LSU
No. 4: Cotton Bowl — Mississippi
No. 5: Outback Bowl — Auburn
No. 6: Chick-Fil-A Bowl — Georgia
No. 7: Music City Bowl — Tennessee
No. 8: Liberty Bowl — Arkansas
No. 9: Independence Bowl — South Carolina
No. 10: Papajohns.com Bowl — Kentucky
It's very likely that the SEC will get all 10 bowl bids this year.
The winner of the Florida/Alabama SEC Championship Game is all but assured of being No. 1 in the BCS rankings and thus going to the BCS Championship. The loser, meanwhile, will be 12-1 and almost definitely the Sugar Bowl’s “replacement” pick.
Beyond that it’s a crap-shoot, meaning that geographical ties might play a big factor.
Based on the rules, the Capital One must take either LSU or Ole Miss. Being that the Tigers are the bigger “draw,” they will head to Orlando.
The Cotton must take a West team and since Ole Miss is the best team left, they will likely get a return trip to Dallas. The Rebels beat Texas Tech in a shootout at the Cotton last season.
The Outback then has a choice between six 7-5 teams. Being that they’re likely to get a Big Ten team that has been there within the last three years, they will avoid taking Tennessee for the third time in four seasons or bringing South Carolina back for a second straight year.
Among Kentucky, Georgia, Arkansas and Auburn, they’ll take the Tigers; Auburn would likely give the best matchup with a top Big Ten team and it’s a relatively short trip.
The Chick-Fil-A then gets a gift, as the hometown Georgia Bulldogs would get the nod. They’re also likely to get Clemson with their ACC pick, making it a true regional bowl.
The Music City and Liberty go next, and Tennessee will go to whichever game is “worse” to draw the hometown fans.
The Liberty has a C-USA No. 1 tie-in (either East Carolina or Houston) while the Music City will get either Boston College, Miami or Virginia Tech with their ACC No. 5 pick. Thus, the Volunteers will head to Memphis and the Music City Bowl will get a steal in Arkansas.
Left with a choice between Kentucky and South Carolina, the Independence Bowl will match up Steve Spurrier’s squad with a Big 12 opponent, sending the Wildcats to face a Big East foe in the Papajohns.com Bowl.